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Strong reactions to report of Ramirez resignation

By Paul Socolar on Aug 19, 2009 11:56 AM

While there are not yet any public comments from officials on this news, a number of education advocates have expressed consternation at the report of Heidi Ramirez's expected resignation from the School Reform Commission.

"This is a terrible loss for both the School District and the citizenry of Philadelphia," said Shelly Yanoff, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth. "Heidi was the best appointment that anyone could remember."

Yanoff speculated that Ramirez may have been "a pawn in the budget battle in Harrisburg." There were rumblings among Harrisburg legislators about the absence of Republican members on the SRC in the wake of Rendell's announced plans in the spring to appoint two Democrats. Rendell subsequently withdrew Ramirez's nomination but she was able to continue to serve until a new nomination was made.

"This is a blow to the special education community, as Dr. Ramirez was the last of the Commisioners (Sandra Dungee-Glenn was also for the rights of children with special needs) to speak up for children with special needs," said Cecelia Thompson, chair of the Philadelphia Right to Education Local Task Force.

Parent activist Karen D. Lash, who served with Ramirez on the District's charter school task force, called the news "incredibly unfortunate." Lash, a founding member of Parents Unified for Charter Schools added, "I was always impressed by her insights, brilliance, commitment and passion for her work and the children.  She would ask the questions that I as a parent and an advocate would want asked to insure transparency, accountability and our voices. "

"Heidi made an incredible effort to reach out to all grassroots organizations - that was reflected across the city," said Zac Steele, an organizer for the parent organizing group JUNTOS, based in South Philadelphia. "I can see absolutely no reason why this is happening besides political reasons, and this is ridiculous."

Yanoff credited Ramirez for bringing to the job "intelligence, a critical eye, and a total commitment to kids, education and public accountability."

"One hopes that she wasn't sacrificed for asking too many questions," Yanoff said.


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Comments (2)

Submitted by Michael Churchill (not verified) on August 19, 2009 2:41 pm

There is something terribly wrong when a member as knowledgeable, hard working and commited to kids as Ramirez is not reappointed. I suppose it was remarkable that someone that qualified was appointed to begin with, but it is a shame that politics forced her out. You would think that a Board of five could tolerate at least one educator able and willing to ask questions.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 19, 2009 2:18 pm

No one on the Commission is brave enough or engaged enough to ask real questions of the Ackerman administration. It has turned out to be a "rubber stamp" Commission at the design of the Governor and the Mayor. Heidi Ramirez is the only one with enough integrity to ask tough -- be exceedinly fair and on-point questions -- of Arlene Ackerman and her people. Should a Commissioner know whether programs they are giving scarce funds to are actually achieving educational goals? Should a Commissioner wonder whether publicly touted programs are appropriately and responsibly funded? Should a Commissioner know if a recruiting tool is going to result in good teachers willing to 'go the mile' for our must struggling and at-risk children? Ackerman talks a big game about accountability, but clearly thinks she is above it. The loss of Heidi Ramirez on the SRC means that there is no one left to truly hold the feet of this administration to the fire, and no one to drive for real answers. This city isn't interested in creating a collaborative governance team -- they want a puppet governance structure to prop up a self-declared dictator.

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